Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From chickens to 'Cash Cows'

During the 2008 election campaign for Supervisor in West Bloomfield, one of the candidates attacked the then Supervisor over Assessing procedures.  She contacted people who had received letters regarding finished basements.  The Assessor at the time apparently had convinced the Supervisor that the Township was losing out on precious revenue from finished basement spaces in homes that were not shown on township documents.  (not my department so no inside knowledge)

I remember questioning the assessor about what she considered 'finished' and she informed me that it included anything, including stick-down tile to cover the cement.  Hoo-ey.  I bet we generate a lot of revenue on that item.

Needless to say, residents were not happy about these letters.  The Supervisor's opponent saw an opening to exploit.  And she did. 

Fast forward to 2011.  The opponent is now the  Supervisor.  She has apparently changed her tune.  She is quoted in the Patch saying:

Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste supported Hobart’s idea, referring to the assessor’s department as a “cash cow” because of its potential to generate tax revenue.


Generate revenue?  I thought assessor's were required to fairly assess property based on certain standards set by the state.  The value is what it is.  When you call a department a 'cash cow', it implies that money rolls in with little effort, such as happens with water departments since folks will use whatever water they need regardless of what the department is doing. 

After Jennifer Granholm took office she appointed the The Task Force on Local Government Services and Fiscal Stability.  One of the suggestions was to move all Assessing to the County level. 

Recommendation:

1. Transfer assessment of property values to the county level, and all equalization
responsibilities to the State.

When I asked the Assessor about the idea in 2006 she yelled, yes yelled, at me that she didn't want to hear it.  When I spoke at the MGFOA in March, the first speaker of the day was State Treasurer Andy Dillon.  I was excited to hear him say that he wants to finally make this happen.  I and others have suggested this at Township Board meetings.  I was actually told by the Supervisor that this department is indeed the 'cash cow' and they would lose revenue if we allowed the County to handle it.  Really?  Are they not required to follow the same assessing statutes and equalize property values? 

The department with the highest general fund budget cost is the Assessing Department.  The former Supervisor considered having the County take over the Township Assessing.  Other communities have already done this.  It needs to be seriously considered by West Bloomfield again.  There were a lot of smart people who worked on that report and came to the same conclusion.  I even believe they need to move all elections and tax collections to the county level,  (Most other states collect taxes at the county level already.)

To say that assessing property is the Township's 'cash cow' somehow makes me feel that I and others are being 'ripped off'.

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